By Nelson Manneh
The Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission, Alieu Momarr Njai, has call on all political parties and candidates to fully observe the electoral laws of the country ahead of the 2023 Mayoral / Chairperson elections.
The IEC chairperson made this call during a one-day meeting of the National Elections Response Group (NERG) on a pre-mayoral / chairpersonship election community consultation. The meeting, which is funded by the UNDP through the peace building fund, is geared towards engaging stakeholders as part of efforts to foster peace and social cohesion, prevent further fragmentation and enhance resilience within communities across the country.
“Political parties, as democratic organisations, are expected to be civil and tolerant in nature and behaviour. We must all help to sustain and maintain peace in The Gambia at all times,” the IEC Chairperson said.
The IEC Chairperson said the electoral Commission has just concluded the nomination of candidates for the Mayoral/Chairperson elections of 20th May 2023, which he said is the remaining election in the 2021 to 2023 electoral cycle. He said a total of 32 candidates were nominated to contest in elections for the eight local government areas across the country, which include Banjul City Council, Kanifing Municipal Council, and Kerewan, Mansakonko, Brikama, Janjangbureh, Kuntaur and Basse Area Councils.
“This gathering could not have come at a better time considering the importance of local government elections. These elections are being contested by a number of political parties and many Independent candidates. I am sure this confirms the importance these stakeholders attach to political participation and most especially to local elections, which are also recognised as grassroots elections,” he said.
Commissioner Njie reiterated that his Commission has been engaging with many stakeholders in the electoral process – including local authorities, political parties, police, media, CSOs and the electorate.
“The IEC would like to build on the gains made during the Ward Council elections. I am sure with further engagement with stakeholders, the electorate and other partners in the electoral process, there will be room for improvement especially in terms of voter turnout,” he elucidated.
He said the efforts of various Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have been recognised in helping to ensure the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.
“I hope such efforts and partnership will grow from strength to strength,” the IEC Chairperson said; adding that his Commission also recognises the vital role NERG has played in previous electoral processes, particularly peace-building role, combating fake news, dis-information and mis-information.
Salama Njie, the national network coordinator of WANEP-The Gambia, said her institution stands to promote peace during elections.
“Eighteen civil society institutions came together to form the National Elections Response Group (NERG), which is housed at the WANEP secretariat, and the main function of NERG is to monitor and give account on election and related matters,” she said.
Ms Njie said the one-day engagement brings women and youth from different organisations to discuss ways of promoting peace ahead of the 20th May 2023 Local Government Elections.